I pride myself on being a student of the Mahatma and Martin Luther King, but the first time some wisecracker pointed out my encroaching baldness -- like I hadn't noticed, hadn't spent hours in front of the mirror, comb in one hand, tranquilizers in the other -- it took all the restraint I could muster not to thrash him to within an inch of his miserable, useless life.
The receding hairline is as sensitive a topic for men as are bust size and weight for women, and the day denial is no longer an option, a man's likely to lose it. I hadn't planned on losing anything until 40 or 50, and certainly not at 25, when I'd only be halfway through my wild oats.
Yet I'm not alone. When I look around, it seems obvious to me that we have some kind of premature balding epidemic on our hands -- or rather heads.
Once, we had time enough to seduce mates, trap 'em in marriage and only then, years later, would the hair go. "Too bad, honey," a spouse would be told, "you're stuck with me!"
But that's history, according to one veteran hair stylist. Nowadays, the boys are lucky if they've hair enough to seduce a date for the senior prom. "About 40 per cent of men under 33 who come in are bald or on their way there," says Tina Morelo at Raffaello Salon on Avenue Road. "Only 10 years ago it was about 20 per cent."
Five other stylists I spoke with agree, although I confess this is utterly unscientific. But thanks to Air Jordan and the like, bald is in, so barbers are buzzing heads bare instead of combing over and fitting toupees.
For the record, explains physician and hair-transplant expert Lawrence Freemont, male-pattern balding will make half of all men bald by the age of 50.
"But listen," he tells me. "If it's bothering you, I can help. The new drug Propecia will arrest hair loss in 85 per cent of cases. Unfortunately, the hair will start falling out again the day you stop taking it." Transplants start at $5,000 to $10,000.
But for every loss there's a gain, and now that the hair's out of my eyes, I can see beauty in all the faces around me.